Road Town, Tortola - Taking the steps necessary to be proactive in their approach to fight the Lionfish invasion, the Conservation and Fisheries Department applied for and received a grant of £20,000, equivalent to just over US$30,000 to combat the invasion of the fish species in the Territory’s waters.
The grant was given by the United Kingdom’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to monitor, control and raise awareness of the threat of the Lionfish in the Territory.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour Mr. Clyde Lettsome spoke of the significance of this grant in helping the Territory to deal with the invasive species.
“We are pleased to have received this grant but more pleased that there is recognition on the part of the donors that the potential of the lionfish to devastate our fisheries is very real. It also bespeaks a confidence in our proposal that the funds will be put to good use.” Mr. Lettsome said.
Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer Mr. Bertrand Lettsome explained how the funds will be spent in the Territory.
“These funds will be used for training of key personnel to learn of and capture the Indo Pacific lionfish within our Territory. It is crucial that we understand areas such as the ecology, behaviour methods and mitigation techniques of the lionfish. The purchase of equipment is also necessary. Gloves, nets, weights, markers and special bags are part of the equipment stock needed to catch and handle the lionfish,” the Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer said.
Towards the end of 2009, the Conservation and Fisheries Department submitted a proposal to share monies sourced by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to deal with the Lionfish.
The total of £60,000 (US$90,000) was granted to the Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands to be shared equally between the three United Kingdom Overseas Territories which all sought financial assistance towards the lionfish fight.
On March 4, the Conservation and Fisheries Department confirmed the first lionfish sighting as discovered by Dive BVI, a private dive company out of Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda. The lionfish was photographed in 25 feet of water off Ginger Island.
Measures have since been put in place to capture the specimen and the Conservation and Fisheries Department have taken steps towards a strategic action plan to deal with the likely effects and public education.
As found on their website, the JNCC is the statutory adviser to the United Kingdom Government on United Kingdom and international nature conservation. Its work contributes to maintaining and enriching biological diversity, conserving geological features and sustaining natural systems.
Persons requiring more information about the lionfish should contact the Conservation and Fisheries Department at their office located on the second floor of the Quatisky building across from the Road Town roundabout. Persons may also telephone the department at 494-5681, 494-3429, 468-9611 or 468-9678 for more information.
The sourcing and receiving of the funds is part of the Conservation and Fisheries Department’s strategic action plan to combat the invasion by the Indo-Pacific Lionfish. It is the department’s aim to tackle the lion fish invasion promptly to minimize damage to the marine environment by protecting and preserving the natural inheritance.